Meditations in 1 John : 63 : Confident Asking (2)
1 John 5:14-15 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him.
In a previous study (No.42) we covered this same subject because earlier in the letter John had written “if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” In that instance the confidence in asking was because of our lifestyle – obedience to Him. There we considered a variety of reasons why we may be sure that we get what we pray for, and we concluded that meditation with: “The key to getting answers to prayer is that we ask in line with His will. When we discern that and ask accordingly, we see answers.” Which brings us precisely to these verses we now have before us!
We might do well to pause and move slowly into these verses because they do raise questions pertinent to modern Christianity. John starts out, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God.” Now there appear to me to be two extremes in modern Christian circles. The first extreme comprises those people who have little or no confidence in the matter of prayer, and so pray rarely. To them John’s letter, says, you can be confident, your heavenly Father delights in His children and in answering the good and right things they pray for!
The other extreme are those people who appear to be over confident in their praying and pray about anything and everything which may roam from asking for Aunty May in Australia to what shirt they should wear tomorrow. Now that may sound derogatory but I often sit in prayer meetings where the content is unguided ‘shopping lists’, things people think would be a good idea for God to answer.
Now sometimes I believe that the Lord wants us to take responsibility for our lives and so He allows us to make our own decisions – the mundane things of life – what shirt to wear tomorrow!!! Other times I am sure His response, if only we could hear it, is “Whatever are you asking for? Why are you waiting? You know what my will is; it is spelled out quite clearly in my word! Just do it!” These tend to be behavioural things or grace issues. For instance you have someone who is not particularly easy to get on with. Don’t pray for them to change, don’t pray for grace – you know you have it because you have the Spirit of love living within you. Just love them. Be nice to them; look to bless them – that will change them! But it starts with you and God’s will is quite clear. Jesus said, “Love your enemies” (Mt 5:44) so for someone who isn’t exactly and enemy but just someone a bit difficult to get on with, it’s got to be easier, hasn’t it!
Why do we pray for things that we know we should be doing something about? Our starting point – to find the will of God, if you like – is to ask about any person or situation we might think of praying about, is to ask, what could I be doing in this situation? We need to stop telling God what we think He ought to be doing, and ask ourselves what He wants us to be doing – and then pray!
What does prayer then become? It becomes coming close to the Father, committing to Him what you believe is His will, and checking with Him in your spirit, that you’ve got it right. Prayer thus becomes submitting your will to His. Now isn’t that exactly what John has said in our verses today: “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” He then goes on, “And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him.”
Do you see the logic of that? Check out His will, find out what it is (and sometimes that happens while we pray). Then pray and ask for it and know it is what god wants we know that He will hear and receive that request and then go on to bring it about – and we can have the confidence that it will work like that.
The crucial thing – and that is where we finished the previous meditation – is finding out what His will is and then asking for it, but the tricky bit is finding out what our part is in it all, because that may well be part of His will.
The one area where, it seems to me, that there will be difficulties, is when we pray for the salvation of someone else, because the Lord never forces the will of people. He may put so much before them that their hearts are opened to respond, but only He knows who such persons are. There are clearly other people whose hearts are set and will remain set for the rest of their time on this earth, but we never know who these will be (unless the Lord specifically shows us, which seems rare). Yes, we can pray for their salvation for we know that “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9) but that doesn’t mean that every person will be saved. Pray for them by all means, but also ask, “Lord, is there a part you want me to play in drawing them to yourself?”
So there it is: find out God’s will – read His word, listen to Him – and find out how it involves you, and pray and do it and then expect things to happen! May it be so!